Summary: Next in the Heroes of Faith series from Hebrews 11, this sermon is about Sarah.
It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.
— Hebrews 11:17 NCV
The story of Sarah’s faith is, in many ways, a love story. Sarah’s faith in God was invariably entwined with her love for her husband, Abraham. Her name was originally Sarai, meaning princess. My own daughter is named after her. Together, Abraham and Sarah became the father and mother of the Jewish race. As such, Sarah remains one of the most important female figures in world history.
The Bible also tells us that Sarah was a woman of remarkable beauty. She was so stunning, in fact, that she drew the attention and affections of both pharaohs and peasants alike (see Genesis 12:10-20). Hebrew folk lore ranks her right up there next to Eve, who was regarded as the most attractive and perfect woman who ever lived. (Of course, none of them had ever met my wife, Ashley, so it’s really not a fair judgment.)
The Bible says that “beauty is a fading flower” (Isaiah 28:1 KJV). Yet, for Sarah, just the opposite seemed to be true. She was apparently “aged to perfection,” as they say, because she only grew more radiant with each passing year. Even at the age of ninety, Abraham was afraid that kings and princes would fall in love with her bewildering beauty—and he was right on at least two occasions! But more important than her unsurpassed place in history or her unparallel beauty, was her personal faith in God.
Sarah is one of only two women mentioned in Hebrews 11 as examples of faith. However, Sarah probably never expected to be counted among the “Heroes of Hebrews.” Her journey of faith was a long, unpredictable rollercoaster of highs and lows—sometimes there seemed to be more lows than highs. So to put Sarah’s story of faith in the proper context, we have to go back to the beginning. Sarah’s faith-journey begins with an...
1. Extended Pilgrimage
Abraham (who was then known as Abram) and Sarai were living together with Abraham’s family in the city of Ur, in Babylonia. And after Abraham’s brother died, Sarai and Abraham helped raise their nephew, Lot, and lived with Abram’s father, Terah. But one fateful day, God spoke to Abraham. He said, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NCV).
Neither Abraham nor Sarah knew where God was calling them to, but they knew where he was calling them from! After the flood, Noah, his sons and their wives repopulated the Middle East. But within a few short generations they had become a godless society once again. Actually, they became a polytheistic society—that is, a culture that believed in many gods. Shem, Ham and Japeth (Noah’s sons) all had enough children to form their own nation. They disregarded God’s command to spread out over all the earth and, instead, built a giant ziggurat—known as the Tower of Babel—as a symbol of their unity and independence. God, of course, destroyed the tower and scattered the people, confusing their language and forcing them to spread out from there over the whole world.
The city of Ur, by the time of Abraham and Sarah, was dedicated to Nannar, the mood god. Its inhabitants were idol worshippers who had forgotten the one true God—the God of Noah. The Lord called Abraham and Sarah out of that land to be pilgrims in search of something better—in search of God himself. And so, they packed up their belongings, left their relatives and their father’s house, and headed out into the great unknown.
It took a lot of faith to do what they did. Even more so, I think, for Sarah than for Abraham. Think about it. The Bible says that God appeared and spoke to Abraham, not to Sarah! All Sarah had known her entire life was heathenism and idolatry. She’d never heard of this God. What would you do if your husband or wife came home one day after fifty-some years of marriage and when you asked them how their day was, they said, “Well, honey, God appeared to me today and said we need to pack up all our stuff and hit the road!”
You might respond with, “What!? Where are we going!?”
“I don’t know,” your spouse shrugs. “I guess God will just tell us when we get there.”
It sounds crazy. And it probably sounded no less crazy to Sarah. But she loved her husband very much and she was willing to trust him on this. She really didn’t know God, but she was willing to step out on faith.
Faith is like that, you know—stepping into the unknown. Not one of us has ever seen God. We’ve never seen Jesus face to face. Never met an apostle. Never held an original manuscript from the Bible. Never touched the Holy Spirit. Yet, God has called each one of us to a better life—eternal life. We never quite know, when we first answer that call, where we’ll end up. But it’s the journey that matters—getting to know the God who spoke the universe into existence, experiencing his grace and love in unimaginable ways, and knowing that someday—some glad morning when this life is over—we will no longer be pilgrims. We will make our home in “a better country—a heavenly country” (Hebrews 11:16 NCV). Along that pilgrimage, nevertheless, Sarah’s faith began to blossom when God gave her an...